Faith and Doubt

Intro

Sometimes you look up at the sky and wonder, “Are you really there?” It’s a fair question to ask. I know sometimes I ask it, and I’ve known God since I was little. Sometimes he just feels…distant. The truth is that he is always with us, whether we feel him or not. Doubt should not stop us from taking action, from following him. It can be hard, but rest in the fact that God knows the aches and desires of your heart and he gives us direction in his Word, showing us what to do when we find ourselves facing doubt. Read on and you’ll see what I mean.

 

 

 

Story

A few years ago I spent the summer working with the homeless youth and young adults of Denver. This was a very specific group. See, there are lots of kids on the streets, but these kids were by themselves. They weren’t out there with their families. They were alone. Many of them had run away from foster parent number 10, been thrown out by their parents or even abandoned.

It was different working with them. We called them our street friends and honestly, it was a lot of hanging out and just being with them. It was simple but tough. The more stories that I heard the harder it became. I would hang out with them all day. The idea being that we met them where they were at, in their backyard…the streets. We would go to movies with them, have picnics, play catch, eat chips and salsa; we even went bowling with them once a week. Then it would be time for me to go home each night, and I would go somewhere safe with a roof over my head and friends in the other apartments, but they were still out there.

On my birthday we all decided to go out to eat, then find something fun to do downtown. We got all dressed up, took the Light-rail down and headed to our decided destination. Only three minutes later I ran into my street friends while we were all dressed up going out to spend too much money on too much food… It was this strange moment…do I acknowledge my street friends? Normally I would…but they don’t know my real friends…would they be uncomfortable?

While I had fun the rest of the night, that tension didn’t leave my mind, and I pondered over it for the next few months that I worked with them. I was a little angry at God. Why would he let these things happen? If he is good…why do my street friends live on the streets? What happened to justice? They didn’t do anything (usually) to get there. Then even if they had done something, which came first, the chicken or the egg? Was it their fault they had grown up in rough circumstances? Certainly not! Doesn’t survival sometimes mean stealing? Maybe they had other options, but in a matter of survival do you really think everything through logically or morally?

All these questions clouded my mind, and I struggled to make sense of them and the God that I thought I knew. After months of confusion one of my co-workers finally spoke a little truth into my life. She said she didn’t have any answers, but she knew I needed to sit with God. To be real with him. I guess in all my confusion I had sort of beat around the bush with God; hadn’t really asked him what was on my mind.

It was in the silence that I heard from God. He didn’t answer any of my questions, but he told me to keep serving the least of these, his children; to give them what I could and, most importantly, to love them and trust him.

Bible intro

When we look at Exodus 13:17-22 and Exodus 14:1-31 we see one of the many accounts of the Israelites having to trust God even when they had doubts. What I love about this account is what we can learn from them when we face doubts of our own. Pay attention to what Moses advises the people to do, and then what God says.

To give you some background, the Israelites had been slaves in Egypt for generations and finally God has heard their cry for help so he sends them Moses. Then, finally, after God sends ten plagues to Egypt, Pharaoh lets the Hebrew people (Israelites) go. God has been faithful! He showed up for the nation of Israel and he continues to be faithful; God freed them from slavery (12:31-32), then he guided them by day and night with clouds of smoke and fire (13:20-22) so they would be guided to the Promised Land; then he had the Egyptians handing all the Israelites gold and silver willingly as they left, (12:35-36)! The Israelites were getting to be a part of “Only God” moments left and right - things only God could have done!

 But then things shift. Pharaoh changes his mind about freeing the Israelites from slavery so he pursues them with 600 of his best chariots and all the rest of his army. This is when the Israelites arrive at the Red Sea. They were trapped! They began to doubt, they got angry, they insult Moses; Exodus 14:11-12 reads, "They said to Moses, 'Weren't there any graves in Egypt? Did you have to bring us out here in the desert to die? Look what you have done by bringing us out of Egypt! Didn't we tell you before we left that this would happen? We told you to leave us alone and let us go on being slaves of the Egyptians. It would be better to be slaves there than to die here in the desert.'"

Talk about doubt! What happened to their faith? Did they forget all that God had JUST done for them?!

The Israelites may have had reasons to doubt, but they also had a lot of reason to have faith. Sometimes I know I can focus on the wrong thing. It’s kind of like that old saying, “Is your glass half full or half empty?” There may be good reason for you to doubt, but it’s really helpful to keep the Israelites’ example in mind. Moses told them to stop and be still, then the Lord spoke and told them what to do next. What is God trying to say to you?

Personal Questions
1. What season of life are you in right now?
2. If you are in a season of doubt right now, challenge yourself with this question, “Where do you see God showing up?” Oftentimes it is in the small things that we see the greatness of God. Take some time to reflect. You may be surprised. If you’re having trouble, ask a trusted friend to help you start out.
3. Moses instructed the Israelites to stop, be still and then God gave them direction even in their time of doubt. Have you tried being still? Here are the verses again from Exodus 14:13-14… Moses answered, “Don't be afraid! Stand your ground, and you will see what the LORD will do to save you today; you will never see these Egyptians again. The LORD will fight for you, and all you have to do is keep still.” The LORD will fight for you! Be still.
4. What action is God asking you to take even in the midst of doubt? Will you move forward like the Israelites?
Prayer

Lord, I feel so full of doubt right now, kind of like the Israelites. Help me to learn from them. To stop, be still and follow you. To move forward even in the midst of doubt, because I know when I do it, it will only strengthen my relationship with you. Guide me in all that I do. Help me to hear your voice through all the noise. In Jesus’ name, Amen.

Map

This is a map of the entire journey the Israelites took from Egypt to the Promised Land. There were huge times of doubt – in fact there was a period of wandering for 40 years! But through all of that they kept moving forward and seeking God’s guidance. More than that, no matter how lost or disobedient or doubtful they were, the Lord never abandoned them or stopped loving them!

 
 
 
 

411

Get the 411 on a new Christian artist Jamie Grace. She, just like you and me, has faced challenging issues and doubt. But in this interview she shares with us how she has made it though tough times by depending on those closest to her and by depending on God. Check it out!

Challenge

The challenge of this section is to practice action even if you are in a season of doubt personally. Remember that just because you are facing doubt, does not mean you stop moving forward. Remember what Moses said. Stop, be still, listen. Know that the Lord will direct you. If you haven’t done it yet, we’re throwing out the challenge again. Go and sit with God in silence today. See what he has to share with you. Start with 5 or 10 minutes and build up to 20 minutes or more. Too often we don’t make time for God and we certainly don’t sit in silence and listen to God; we rattle things off our wish list instead. Now while there is a time and place for something similar to that, today just go and be with him. Listen for his gentle voice.

Stories

Take some time to read this passage. It’s a song the Israelites sang with Moses right after God parted the Red Sea and saved them from the Egyptians. It was a situation where the people were full of doubt, but God showed up as he promises us he will do and the people praised him. After reading it, think back on your own life. Was there a time you were filled with doubt? Are you in a season of doubt right now? How can you praise God anyway? As you reflect on this passage, reflect on your own life and praise God for the ways you have seen him show up.

Exodus 15:1-21

 

Faith and Doubt 1

Faith and Doubt 2

Faith and Doubt 3

Faith and Doubt 4

Faith and Doubt 5

Scripture

Proverbs 3:5-8 - This is a great passage to remind us to trust the Lord. Even when we doubt, we know we can trust him; he will guide us.

Mark 11:20-25 - Read this whole passage, but in particular check out verse 24. Know that your Father in heaven not only will answer your prayers, but he wants to! He loves hearing from his children.

Isaiah 41:10 - When you are in a season of doubt, be encouraged; the Lord is with you.

Jeremiah 29:11-13 - When we seek him, he is there for us!

Romans 8:26-27 - Even when words don’t come to us, the Holy Spirit knows the cries of our hearts and speaks to God for us.

Video

Take a look at this clip from Arthur Christmas. It looks like all hope is lost! Sure it’s just a cartoon, but you can feel the tension, the weight of the doubt. If you know the rest of the movie, then you know Arthur takes action and delivers it himself with the elf from the wrapping division. It’s a happy ending, but none of that would have been able to happen without Arthur’s courage. Have you ever faced this in your life?

Movie: Soul Surfer. Can you imagine the situation Bethany was in? Everything looked so hopeless, but in her darkest hour, her father gives her some great advice. Listen to this clip. What does he tell Bethany to do? Maybe you are facing some hopeless situations right now too, different ones, but it’s hard. Know that you can always pray. Then wait, and hear what God has to say or where he leads.

Watch this clip from the movie Jesus. Sometimes we read Scripture and it’s hard to actually relate to it, to understand it; but this gives us a great picture of the kind of doubt Jesus met everywhere he met. I share this because your doubt is not something he is unfamiliar with; he knows, he understands, and on top of all that, he will show himself to you too if you just ask.

Life Questions
1. Sometimes we forget that we can still be faithful even when we are struggling with doubt; in fact sometimes moving out of your season of doubt will include taking a step of faith and walking where God leads. Text yourself a reminder of what action will you take even though you are doubting.
2. Practice being still before God. It may be weird at first, but that’s okay! I love this quote from Bill Hybels in his book The Power of a Whisper, “Not only does God draw near to his children and seek them out when they’re having a rough go, but also he speaks words to them- words of comfort, insight and peace.” The trick is to slow down enough to hear them. So right now, find a quiet spot where you are and sit with God. What does he have to say to you? What feelings are you getting? Memories? Empty yourself of worries and let God refill you with truth. If you like to journal, write about it…afterwards.
3. Sometimes doubt comes into our lives because we think there is this feeling we’re suppose to get when we are close with God, but that’s not always true. Sometimes you won’t “feel” anything. That is where discipline comes in; you keep reading your Bible anyway, and you keep living life the way that God asks us to in the Bible. It’s when we walk through these seasons, we often learn the most. This week read your Bible, spend time in prayer or journal to God for fifteen minutes each day. See what God has to teach you. At the end of each fifteen minutes, pray, “Lord, may I walk in step with you today.” Maybe it starts as a discipline this week, but my prayer is it turns into something more.
Reflect

Take some time to first read the words of this song rather then actually listening to it. No matter what kind of day it is for us, it’s a song we can relate to. Jamie’s desire to worship God no matter what is something we can learn from.

 

Wake up and smile ‘cause it's been a while

It's been like a whole day since I stopped so you could hold me

This child awaits, strong in the faith

Lord, You are the refuge that I can't wait to get to

‘Cause I can't let a day go

Can't let a day go by

Without thanking you for the joy that you bring to my life

 

Chorus:

And oooooh there's something 'bout the way

Your sun shines on my face

It's a love so true, I could never get enough of You

This feeling can't be wrong

I'm about to get my worship on, take me away

It's a beautiful day.

It's a beautiful day.

 

When trouble seems to rain on my dreams

It's not a big, not a big deal

Let it wash all the bugs off my windshield

‘Cause You're showing me in You I'm free

And You're still the refuge

That I've just got to get to

So I won't let a day go, won't let a day go by

So put the drop top down, turn it up,

I'm ready to fly.

 

Chorus:

And oooooh there's something 'bout the way

Your sun shines on my face

It's a love so true, I could never get enough of You

This feeling can't be wrong

I'm about to get my worship on, take me away

It's a beautiful day.

It's a beautiful day.

 

I've got no need to worry, I've got no room for doubt

No matter what's coming at me

You'll always be the beautiful I sing about

There ain't no limitations to Your amazing grace

Your amazing grace

 

And there's something 'bout the way

Your love shines on my face

Oh no I could never get enough of You

This feeling can't be wrong

I'm about to get my worship on

I'm gonna sing a brand new song

 

Yeah, I'm about to get my worship on

Take me away on this beautiful day

It's a beautiful day

It's a beautiful day

It's a beautiful day

Such a beautiful day.